Story by: Doviel
Doviel had heard somewhat of Aniwen, the warrior at her side. She knew tales of her father’s great deeds, as the melethril of Mericc’s former companion, she felt that she already knew the girl from her heritage. Aqualondo had shared many stories of the man but not so much of the child. Or woman, as the girl was grown now, as humans count years, and she had become a formidable Guardian.
Doviel first trekked with her through the wilds of Mirkwood as they recovered strange artifacts of the woodland elves. Did that old second age engraving on the Wild Ruins really say ‘Aqualondo was here’ etched in Silvan Elvish? Doviel shook her head and laughed at the memory.
Aniwen looked at her with a quirked brow as they scouted for the nearly invisible goblin scouts plaguing the woods. Despite their small size and concealed nature, Doviel had an uncanny knack for finding them. But whenever she was not focused on a task, the wood-elf was always laughing at something. She made jokes to herself and amused herself with her own thoughts, often seeming to laugh for no reason.
Aniwen found the elf’s constant joy and merriment to be unsettling and more than a little annoying. Still, she held up her end of the fighting, did not shy back from their foes, and had a good eye, as wood-elves do, for tracking. But, it was clear that she was nervous in the spider burrows. Truly though, who wouldn’t be? Especially when they dropped down from thick webs right on top of you! Aniwen, however, was ever vigilant, ever watchful, and would never let the slight minstrel fall to such creatures, but the wood-elf did not understand the dedication of the woman who walked beside her.
They slashed through thick webs as they wandered through twisting, turning canyons and hidden spider burrows. Doviel was more pale that usual, and if you have ever seen her complexion, that would be a description of note. Aniwen eyed the elf next to her with some concern. Had she been bit and did not tell her? Was she poisoned? Was she actually sweating? Did elves sweat?
Doviel grasped a vial in her hand behind her small shield and her dagger in the other, ‘S-she’s in there!’ She indicated a thick curtain of webs over a wide alcove. A large shadow loomed and skittered behind it. She whispered the name in a quiet hiss, ‘Delúris . . .’
Aniwen stood at the ready, about to take the lead, but the pale elf lifted her hand and stayed the maiden warrior, ‘No, I must lead on this, only I hold the antidote. If her venom were to strike you,’ she eyed the woman, ‘all of my songs may not be enough to revive you in time.’ Aniwen nodded in understanding, but did not like to have the minstrel stand before her. With her armor, shield, and axe, she was the stronger of them both, and they both knew it! But, Doviel did what Doviel had to do, even if that meant facing down giant, man (and elf) eating spiders that had flesh rotting venom.
Invoking the Valar and crying out in the ancient Valarin tongue, words of power were unleashed, and light smote the fell brood-spider. The minstrel stopped several attacks with her small shield and was clawed only slightly as her cries stunned and smote the beast. Aniwen attacked the spiders that dropped suddenly from the webs to defend the spider queen, and Doviel dropped her shield for a moment to get a clear view of where to direct her next call of power. It was in that moment that the spider stung her.
The venom coursed through her quickly despite her elven vitality. The pain wracked her body, and she almost dropped the vial on the ground and lost her shield. Blinking her eyes to clear the blur, she lifted her hand, and drank the potion. She used her pain to channel a piercing cry and the burst of light combined with a fierce blow from the axe of the brave guardian defeated the creature.
Aniwen helped the elf stumble back to the camp to report their victory and lessened threat in the Scuttledales, and that is when they received the news about Hal.
‘Hal Tiller?’ Aniwen asked. And the elf in charge of the camp, Ivorel, related the tale of the brave hobbit who seemed to have gotten himself lost. Fell signs of a bloody backpack, and gnawed bones had been recovered, all was presumed lost. The only hope was revenge upon the beast that slew him. And, that beast was Trapjaw.
All Doviel could think was a brief prayer, ‘Oh Elbereth, please, please, I don’t want to go back in the spider dens.’ She was fully redeemed from the venom, but she really hated spiders. Something about the barrows, long ago, slaying hundreds upon hundreds of spiders in one day; a tale she rarely told, but since that time, spiders always made her feel sick and dizzy. Why do they have to be bigger than I am? It just does not seem natural. She wished fervently that Ungoliant and her brood had never been.
Aniwen’s calm and steady voice broke through Doviel’s thoughts as the warrior grasped her axe, ‘Yes, of course we will.’ She tugged on the elf’s sleeve, ‘You are rested. Let us go.’
And that was that. Doviel was following Aniwen through the twists and turns of the Scuttledales, again. They followed what signs they could, looking for the pack leader of the black hounds, the barghests, populating the ‘ghetto of Mirkwood’ as Aqualondo once told Doviel his people called it. Doviel’s keen eyes tracked the patterns of movements and found the beast first, unfortunately, she found him by looking down on him from over a cliff. Everything in the Scuttledales was either right above you or right below you, with steep cliffs in either direction. Aniwen held up her arm to stop the elf who was peering down over the cliff at the hound.
‘I shall go first and find a safe path down,’ Aniwen began the steep descent which included a lot of sliding, skidding, and some mild cursing. Luckily, the disgusting hound was too busy gnawing on the remains of its latest kill to notice. She called back up to the elf quietly, ‘Yeah! we’re good!’
The surefooted elf followed the human woman down the steep incline, doing more than a bit of sliding and skidding herself, but it was, of course, very graceful. In fact, it looked like Doviel simply glided down the hill. It was as if every missed step and bit of footing that gave way was absolutely on purpose. When she got to the bottom, effortlessly, she patted the little braids woven into her pretty hairstyle and flashed a bright smile at the woman.
She always looked so perfect. Aniwen and Doviel could walk through a swamp in Drownholt, and after stomping across the swamp to collect dry firewood, Aniwen would look like she got half-drown in a pit of goo. Doviel would arrive back at camp, kick some dust off her boots and look like she had her own personal breeze refreshing her. Aniwen would choke on the fumes of the reeky camp fires and the thick smoke made her eyes tear and her nose run. Doviel might sniff primly once or twice, but among the other elves, she was just one of them.
Pretty and perfect, in the middle of a dark, dreary quagmire. Tall, pretty people with dainty hands and fair skin, and something about it made Aniwen’s skin crawl. There was more than one reason why the Eldar and Edain should not mingle. These thoughts sped through Aniwen’s mind in the span of only the few seconds it took for Doviel to prepare herself for combat after her ‘glide’ down the cliffside.
Aniwen muttered, ‘Elves!’ under her breath. She was fairly certain she had turned an ankle on her way down, but she did not dare to favor it in front of the elf. She lifted her axe as they approached the gnawing hound. Trapjaw did not even look up from his kill, which appeared fresh, but it was so mangled that the ladies could not make out exactly what the kill had been, other than humanoid. From the unfortunate evidence they had been presented, both feared it was Hal.
‘Does that look like a hobbit to you?’ Doviel asked uncertainly from the distance they stood at.
Aniwen shook her head, ‘For the sake of our own sanity, let us say that it is not.’
Doviel nodded her head grimly, and then they set to. Doviel shouted a call of light and the hound turned about to attack the elf, but then Aniwen attacked with her axe and the beast spun about again focusing its attacks solely on the guardian. The fight was fierce, but it was over so quickly. The beast was totally overwhelmed by the calls and cries of the minstrel and the ruthless, precise blows of the skillful guardian’s axe. But just before the beast yielded to the victors, a hobbit jumped out from behind a nearby tree!
Hal Tiller said, ‘Hah, got you now! Die beast!’ Hal ambushed the beast from behind and delivered the killing blow right into the hound’s ribs.
‘Yes! I got him!’ he crowed. The hobbit looked over at the minstrel and guardian, “Hey, are you two ok? Good thing I was here, wasn’t it?”
The little hobbit wiped his brow and continued, “Glad to see a friendly face out here. That overgrown dog and I have been hunting each other in circles for two days straight! Luckily, I was just ready to spring my trap when you showed up, or it might have gone badly for you.” He wiped off his dagger on the beast’s fur and started to amble off through the Scuttledales. He turned and called back, ‘’Well, I’m off to continue the hunt! Good luck to you!’
Doviel cleaned off and sheathed her beautiful elven dagger. She looked embarrassed and her voice was small. She could not meet Aniwen’s eyes, ‘Did that just happen?’ She could not believe they just had their kill stolen by a hobbit.
Aniwen walked up to Doviel, slung her axe on her back, looked directly into the elf’s eyes, and said very clearly with a determined tone, ‘This did not happen.’
Doviel met the woman’s steely gaze and nodded her head quietly. It would be a solemn promise between them. This did not happen. Then she brightened at once as she turned about and started running through the Scuttledales, on uncertain paths, finding cliff after cliff before finally finding the route that ran down and around and out. In her singsong voice she called back over her shoulder to Aniwen, ‘I did not see anything unusual, did you?’
Aniwen paced behind the elf, who was clearly going the wrong way, with barely concealed exasperation. The elleth moved so swiftly it was hard to deter her once she got started, so Aniwen just followed along and tried to keep the minstrel from getting herself killed. She answered Doviel’s question, ‘No.’ She was a woman of few words.
Back at the Malledhrim camp, Ivorel was relieved, although somewhat irritated after a week of worry, to hear that the pair had spotted the hobbit, Hal Tiller, safe and sound sneaking through the Scuttledales. They said nothing else about the incident, and after receiving much thanks, traveled on their way.